Khe Sanh

Australia's unoffical national anthem

Cold Chisel

Cold Chisel officially began in 1973 in Adelaide, South Australia with the lead vocalist Jimmy Barnes, guitar and vocalist Ian Moss, drums Steve Prestwich, bass player Phil Small and Don Walker on piano. In 1976 they moved to Sydney with a brief stop in Melbourne. To begin Cold Chisel covered mainly rock songs while they developed originals, the topic mainly being fear, anger and alienation. Then in 1977 the band signed a contract with WEA (now known as Warner Music).


Their first two albums 'Cold Chisel' and 'Breakfast at Sweethearts' created many well known classics that are still recognised including 'Khe Sanh' and 'Shipping Steel'. 'Khe Sanh' was banned from commercial radio as the lyrics content was inappropriate yet many adopted it as Australia's 'unofficial national anthem'. Even the Australian Cricket Team at the time would sing it as a victory song.


In 1980 they released the single 'Cheap Wine' from the album 'East'. This was the first album that all band members contributed their own songs. The album was even more successful as the first two staying on the charts for 63 weeks with 26 of them being in the top 10. Many of the songs became part of the national identity such as the well known song 'Four Walls'. The band started touring the United States and were a hit.


Next came 'Circus Animals'. Another hit was born 'You Got Nothing I want'. Other songs such as 'Taipan' and 'When the War is Over' were also well known and regularly played on the radio.


Half way through 1983 rumblings began in the band with Prestwich quitting and other members being pushed to breaking point. With saying this, the band pushed on and took a chance by committing to a 26-date arena tour along with releasing another album 'Twentieth Century'. Then in 1984 the band spit. In the height of their fame.


Jimmy Barnes's solo career took off and he released eight albums which all were number 1's. Walker formed 'Catfish' and released 'Unlimited Address' while Moss debuted with 'Matchbook' with Walker writing the majority of songs. By this point Prestwich joined a band called 'Little River' and developed his song writing. Finally Small completely stopped music and began raising a family.


Although all band member were going well solo they decided to reunite in 1995 and in 1998 relaxed 'The Last Wave of Summer' album, which debuted at number 1. They toured again with the 'Last Wave' area tour. All the disputes was said to be resolved and in 2003 their 'Ringside' show excited audiences all over the country. In 2005 they headlined for a benefit to raise money for the Boxing Day tsunami victims.


It was rumoured that Cold Chisel began secretly recording new material in 2010. This was confirmed after the sudden death of Steve Prestwich which suddenly passed as a result of a brain tumour in 2011. They finished the album and released it in July 2011 with the album including new songs which Steve contributed to, old songs and the classics. They toured in late 2011 with the 'Light Nitro Tour' in Australia and New Zealand. Most recently in 2012, They released their 7th studio album entitled 'No Plans'.


(References-15 and 16)

Photograph reference (11)

Lyrics

"Khe Sanh"

I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the black-market man
I've had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it's only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-dayheroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
Saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains
And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypacket lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novacaine

So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I've travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I've been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again

You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I'll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain't nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
And it's really got me worried
I'm goin' nowhere and I'm in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone


(Reference- Khe Sanh Lyrics, 2013 Azlyrics, accessed 2 November 2013, <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/coldchisel/khesanh.html>.)

Cold Chisel - Khe Sanh

(9).

Meaning

"In April 1978, Cold Chisel released their self-titled debut album. The album reached the Top 40 on the Australian album chart, but it was their first single Khe Sanh that gained more attention and set the tone to come" (Davies, 2012)


The song 'Khe Sanh' refers to the battle Khe Sanh, in the Vietnam War from the 21st of January to the 9th of July 1968. This battle took place in Quang Tri, a provence in the north west of Vietnam near the boarder of Laos. Over the six months of what was known as one of the bloodiest battles in the Vietnam War with many solders suffered from shell shock, post dramatic stress disorder and other traumas. This song talks about a solider aimlessly wondering around after the war, not having an ambitions prospects and using drugs and womanising to stop the pain. Showing the impact on a man who had given his life to the Vietnam War.


Cold Chisel wrote 'Khe Sanh' in May 1978 and based it on the experiences of the vets of Vietnam. "Khe Sanh presents an image of Australian men struggling with the system, damaged but still holding on to their pride." (Davies, 2012)

Verses 1 and 2

"I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the blackmarket man
I've had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it's only other vets could understand"
(1)


The song begins with 'I left my heart at the sappers round Khe Sanh' (1), referring to a solider loosing his happiness, love and self worth after the war and leaving his heart with his fellow solders who were killed in Khe Sanh. The rest of the first paragraph builds on how the vet misses his fellow soldiers and misses Vietnam even though he is scarred from what he had experienced while fighting. (2)


"About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-dayheroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
Saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land"
(1)


The song then tells us about how the War impacted the vets on love. 'The long forgotten dockside guarantees' is in reference to a partner who had promised the soldiers that they would wait for them but after the War many had forgotten about their love before. 'Saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her' builds on this. 'How there were no V-dayheroes in 1973' (1) is on of the most powerful in the song. A V-dayhero was the name given to the solders who came back from World War 2. These men were celebrated, given parades and medals along with public recognition. After Vietnam it was a very different story. The solders were not given medals, or celebrated and they were not recognised by the public as heroes. This also shows the great divide in Australians as war was no longer celebrated.


Verses 3 and 4

"And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains
And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypacket lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams"
(1)


This verse was very controversial and the lyrics 'Their legs were often open but their minds were always closed' (1) implying that women were promiscuous, got the song banned from public radio (14). Apart from this, this verse tells us a lot about women in the time and how they lived their lives. 'Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one' (1) tells us that the culture in Australia at the time was for women to find a husband and settle down. Their lives were 'empty' until this happened. Having said this, the women's rights movement was becoming a prominent force in Australia and women were fighting for change. (3) 'But the cars made me junky and I never stopped the dreams' (1) is a clear reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was and still is very common amongst soldiers who have lived through a war. Common symptoms of this is high alertness and and reliving certain aspects of the trauma such as nightmares or flashbacks. (4)


"So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend"
(1)


After the War many soldiers found it hard to both settle down with a family and find a job. Many men wondered around, applying for jobs all over the country but never really finding a stable job and enough money to run a household. This paragraph talks about the struggles of finding a stable job and home, "Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend". (1)


Verses 5 and 6

"And I've travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I've been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again"


After the war many men returned to their stations to see the country after the war and revisit old memories, no matter how dark they were. Many men also went back to try and find what they had lost in the war, whether it was love and compassion or a person (2) 'But the answer sure ain't there, but I'm drifting north, to check things out again' (1). Normally the vets would not find what they were looking for, no matter how long they had searched.


"You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I'll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain't nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long"
(1)


'I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long' (1) is the final line of this verse. Through the vet trying to make sense of the War and what has impacted him, he has not come out any better. He instead found comfort in 'a jaded chinese princess' (1) and cannot settle down.


Verse 7


"Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone

Yeah the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
And it's really got me worried
I'm goin' nowhere and I'm in a hurry

And the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone" (1)


The final verse refers to him leaving Australia again, still not recovered from the trauma of the war and having no prospects for the future.

'And I'm going no where and I'm in a hurry'. (1)


(10.)

Culturally Significant

The song 'Khe Sanh' was known as Australia's unofficial anthem ironically only reaching number 41 on the charts because of its content (1). "Khe Sanh is one of the most popular songs ever recorded by an Australian act and is regularly seen as a resonant symbol of the Australian Culture" (Davies 2012) (1). Vietman War had impacted on the every Australian, no matter if they were on the front line or watching from their televisions at home, everybody knew somebody who had gone thought the hardship of the war. The song talked about the problems that were faced by the vets and told the their story.


The song did not glorify war which appealed to many people. After the war being published on national television people finally saw the horrors on the front line and the majority of the population were no longer comfortable with the idea of war. The song humanised war. It make it no longer a game but a force that completely wrecked peoples lives and their families.


"There were no V-Day heroes in 1973" (1) is on of the strongest lines and sums up Australia's view of the Vietnam War. When World War 2 ended the soldiers were celebrated when they came home and were a called V-day heroes after Victory Day, thus Victory Day Heroes (V-Day heroes). There were no V-day heroes in the Vietnam War. These men were not glorified. This showed the great divide in Australia's culture and how Australia had changed since World War 2. It also showed the impact on the culture from America and Woodstock, with the hippie culture. 'Make Love not War'.


Another reason why 'Khe Sanh' was such a success is because it defyed what was deemed appropriate. The song was banned from commercial radio because of its explicit content dealing with sex and drugs, 'their legs were often open and their minds often closed', something that was a new subject for the music industry. This is something now which is quite common for music.


Khe Sanh is a about "bitter and disillusioned Australian Vietnam veteran. According to Toby Creswell's liner notes for the band's 1991 compilation album Chisel, the song is also a story of the restless youth' (unknown, 2013) (5), making the song relatable for all generations and ages so the song resonates with everybody no matter if they were directly involved with the Vietnam War, and War or simply growing up.


Bibliography References

1. Cold Chisel and Khe Sanh, 2011 Independent Australian, accessed 12 November 2013, <http://www.independentaustralia.net/australia/australia-display/cold-chisel-and-khe-sanh,4026>.


2. Karaoke Song Khe Sanh Meaning, 2010 Karaoke News, accessed 13 November 2013, <http://mrkaraoke.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/songs-and-their-meanings/>.


3. Women, 2013 Swirk, accessed 13 November 2013, <http://www.skwirk.com.au/p-c_s-56%20_u-490_t-1336_c-5136/women/tas/sose:-history/australia-after-1945/changing-rights-and-freedoms>.


4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2013 Mind, accessed 13 November 2013, <http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-(ptsd)/#.UoNhdJgyxdg>.


5. Khe Sanh, 2013 LastFM, accessed 13 November 2013, <http://www.last.fm/music/Cold+Chisel/_/Khe+Sanh>.


6. Cold Chisel Archive Release, 2011., Photograph, Australian Guitar, accessed 5 November 2013, <http://www.australianguitarmag.com.au/2011/06/cold-chisel-to-roll-out-the-biggest-archival-release-in-australian-music-history/>.


7. Not Planning to Rock, n.d., Photograph, Music.com.au, accessed 5 November 2013, <http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2012/05/23/cold-chisel-don-walker-dan-condon/>.


8. Cold Chisel-All For You, n.d., Photograph, AU., accessed 6 November 2013, <http://www.theaureview.com/albums/cold-chisel-all-for-you-2011-single>.


9. Rockerfella, J 1983 Cold Chisel-Khe Sanh, online video, March 8, accessed 7 November 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y8ubH2DKWo>.


10. Cold Chisel inspred Khe Sanh t-shirt, 2013, Photograph, Bathroom Wall T-shirts, accessed 11 November 2013, <http://www.bathroomwall.co.uk/store/cold-chisel-inspired-khe-sanh-tshirt-p-935.html>.


12. Cold Chisel, 2011 Cold Chisel, accessed 2 November 2013, <http://www.coldchisel.com/band/biography/>.


13.Khe Sanh Lyrics, 2013 Azlyrics, accessed 2 November 2013, <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/coldchisel/khesanh.html>.


11. Rare Khe Sanh CD single, 2013, Photograph, Ebay, accessed 5 November 2013, <http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/COLD-CHISEL-KHE-SANH-RARE-CD-SINGLE-VIETNAM-VETERANS-/221146210272>.


14. Cold Chisel and Khe Sanh, 2011 Independent Australian, accessed 12 November 2013, <http://www.independentaustralia.net/australia/australia-display/cold-chisel-and-khe-sanh,4026>.


15. Cold Chisel, 2011 Cold Chisel, accessed 2 November 2013, <http://www.coldchisel.com/band/biography/>.


16. Cold Chisel, 2011 Wikipedia, accessed 12 November 2013, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Chisel>.)